Who Is This Guy Snooze?

There are no discoverable historical records about Doctor Snooze, but we do see evidence of his influence. His name is emblazoned on every alarm clock and smartphone in the world. Whoever he was, the damage done by his philosophy of instant gratification by procrastination has become ingrained in our existence. Why bother to be burdened with a commitment to get up in the morning if it is too easy to be tricked into oversleeping? Doctors will tell you that the time spent in the morning between the first alarm and the second, third, and other subsequent snoozes is not healthy sleep anyway. Carpe Diem! Decide on the time to get up, then do it! Instead of a tool to actively manage time, we use this concept to manage our laziness.

We should explore new and better ways to use snooze technology where it is needed most instead of wasting it frivolously. What other places in our lives could we insert a comma-like pause to use it more effectively?

Anger Management – One situation that cries out for a snooze button within arm’s reach is when we are angry. A quote attributed to Ambrose Bierce tells us, “Speak when you are angry, and you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” When angry coworkers, family members, or even total strangers confront us, the knee-jerk human response seems to be an escalation to win! Such situations are an ideal place for a snooze. This philosophy echoes Thomas Jefferson’s advice, “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a hundred.” It may be hard to judge the exact length of every individual’s anger snooze setting, but it is an excellent beginning; to pause and think before reacting. It would probably reduce road rage if we replaced the horn in the middle of the steering wheel with a snooze button.

Decision Making – Think about ways to creatively eliminate indecisiveness from our lives by using the snooze concept. Not being able to decide on alternative actions may be the result of many factors, but pausing to think about all the possible alternatives is one way to start. For some reason, we feel a need to act even if the timing is not right. Hit snooze! Think first about the consequences of making the wrong decision, and then consider the alternative paths. Self-brainstorming lets you find even the most obscure tracks before acting. Discover the hidden entrances and exits on the highway toward a goal and make important decisions based on fact, not emotion. Not doing anything is also a choice, but deciding not to decide can be a fatal decision if it’s going to either end of the decision-making spectrum; surrendering to procrastination or rushing headlong into action.

Curbing Impulses – In life, many reflexive actions require no thought, such as breathing, blinking, and hitting the send button. These are things we do automatically every day without even a heartbeat of hesitation. We have tools to check spelling and grammar, but there is no function to measure the intent of communication before releasing it into the wild. How about replacing the enter key with a snooze button? Just as you can’t unring a bell, you can’t always repair the damage done by hastily using the technology that has snared us and trained us on how to be a robot. If we only took a moment to shift into receiver mode and listen to what we are sending, we might not be so quick on the trigger by firing it off from our personal, narrow minded perspective. A conscious action will be more likely to hit the target than one randomly sent.

Budgeting Everything – The commitment of finite resources is another place we need to engage our snoozability. Money, time, and goodwill are difficult to recover after spending it. Marketers have perfected the art of selling us what we don’t want or need. Employers have fine-tuned the culture of managing corporate needs at the expense of the individual. Friends and family know how to leverage guilt and shame to lead us into relationship-areas of their choosing. There isn’t an all-inclusive list of resource suckers, but when we think about using our snooze button before acting, we get a chance to make it better.

Snoozing our way through life has its dark side just as mindlessly slapping the alarm clock in the morning. The key to being more alive comes from being awake, conscious, and decisive. When we insert a snooze-like concept into every action, we master the art of interpersonal relationships and gain control over our lives.

Go forth and be snoozerific!

Awareness of Time Usage and Personal Decision Making

There are two truisms not usually put together that seem to make perfect sense when accidental usage brings them together. Peter Drucker’s quote, “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed,” is one of them. The second Druckerism is, “What gets measured gets managed.” These conjoined ideas result in several misquotes that are nevertheless true, one of which is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring.” The focus of time management usually means studying the use of time to attack, destroy, and manage time robbing bad habits. It has been up to the owner of the hours to determine how many of them seem to be wasted and how much is seen to be productive time. Measuring time usually has had no standard for comparison… until now.

In June 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the American Time Use Survey Summary for 2017. Like other government studies, some results appear to be a simple restatement of common sense logic, such as, “Many more people worked on weekdays than on weekend days.” By drilling down through all the drivel, some interesting facts can give us a baseline for analyzing our use of time. Employees and employers can use this data to increase awareness of the total universe of time rather than spot-checking and “fixing” disjointed elements of it.

  • Multiple jobholders are more likely to work on a weekend. 57% of those having more than one job were found to work on an average weekend day. This result may be one of those common sense items we take for granted, but the necessity to work multiple jobs takes detailed planning to ensure there is not a conflict between the positions or an unexpected sacrifice of valuable personal time. Measuring time as a non-renewable resource may allow the possibility of making a difference in attitude, productivity, and health. Jumping into such situations without thinking about how prevalent and demanding such a decision can be on our time can be devastating.
  • Education level is a significant factor in working from home. 46% of those with an advanced degree performed some work at home on days worked, compared with 12% of those with a high school diploma. Without drawing an unfounded conclusion based on the maturity required for a person to attain higher education, it does point out the fact that jobs held by them come with an element of trust by their employers. While not stated in the survey, there is a bias toward degreed professionals over those without a college degree even in jobs that do not require the skills associated with a formal degree. It also explains why some employers are reluctant to trust anyone to work offsite. It isn’t so much a matter of the caliber of the individual but an indication of willingness to measure and manage employees’ time.
  • It’s not all about the workday. On an average day, 84% of women and 68% of men spent some time doing household activities. In households with children under the age of 6, men spent 1.1 hours each day less in household activities, 1.3 hours, compared with women who spent 2.4 hours daily. Human resources managers who are more concerned about onsite visible work activities may overlook the outside demands on time. There are no set rules about how to give equal consideration for the differential between women and men performing household duties, but culturally society still sees a mother as the primary caregiver. Not understanding this fact can cause managers to overlook the extra demands placed on women or cause them to discriminate against female employees for perceived lack of devotion to the job.
  • It is also essential to budget for leisure time. On an average day, nearly everyone age 15 and over, 96%, engaged in some leisure activity, such as watching TV, socializing, or exercising. We intuitively recognize the fact that mental acuity is adversely affected by a lack of sufficient downtime to recharge and recuperate from daily stresses. Looking at the total picture of time traps in our daily lives, we need to prepare consciously for a diversity of activities even in a job with routine, repetitive tasks. In fact, it could be that performing rote actions can arguably heighten the inability to find time for alternative outlets.

While this study is not an earth-shattering revelation, it does give us some idea of normalcy in an environment in which we tend to sub-optimize tasks without a big-picture view of our time. It is still essential to understand the difference between important time requirements and unnecessarily urgent time-wasters, but finding the key to “normal” is an exercise in deciding on personal values and managing the available time.

Lies About Multitasking In Resumes and Jobs

Most people take pride in calling themselves multitaskers. Like other motherhood and apple pie topics, it has become a badge of honor to lay claim to the ability to do it even though there is not much proof that it works or even that it exists. Employers say they want people who can multitask and the rest of us follow our fellow lemmings over the cliff of reality. Research shows that true multitasking is not only a myth, but it can be detrimental to attempt it. It’s not wrong to set a goal to mold a career by trying to develop abilities that are valuable to an employer, but it is also possible they don’t know what they want. In fact, if you read job descriptions to the letter, that truth becomes very clear.

If you research the origins of multitasking, you’ll find that it began even before present-day computers existed.  Multi-channel radio broadcasting allows one frequency on the dial to receive two distinct signals. Edwin Armstrong, the man who invented FM radio, was the first to experiment with multiplexing in 1934. His experiments led to the concept we see today of electronically transmitting rapidly switched channels and then separating them into multiple distinct data sources. Voila! Surround sound! The ability to process several streams of data evolved into computers that turn these signals around in nanoseconds giving the illusion they are handling one consistent flow of information when in fact they don’t. In fact, it violates the laws of physics to think this is true.

The human brain is one of the most complicated computers we know. If electronic brains can simulate multitasking, why can’t ours?

An article in Forbes in 2014 concluded that multitasking can actually impair performance and even cause damage to the brain. It reported that research at Stamford University showed people trying to manage several streams of information at the same time were less productive than those who did not. Think beyond cell phone use while driving and you can draw your own conclusions. The studies showed that IQ scores went down by as much as 15 points in multitasking men. Further data from researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK showed that MRI scans of multitaskers had less brain density in the region of the brain associated with empathy and cognitive/emotional control. Without concluding that multitasking damages the brain, or the other way around, it does give us a clearer picture that it is not a healthy thing to do.

A brief from the American Psychological Association states that switching between complex tasks can adversely impact productivity. Repetitive switching between routine tasks is possible with some compromise in the final results, but considering all the differences in the processing of information by different people, it is impossible to know all the variables involved. We do want to assist human executive control by improving the interfaces between people and their machines, such as automobiles and aircraft. The hidden costs of mental blocks caused by task switching can be as much as 40% of their productive time.

Looking more closely at the correct definition of multitasking, what are the more desirable traits we need to offer to employers or ask for in potential employees?

  • Attention to detail – If it is not possible to perform multiple tasks simultaneously, we need to focus on fine-tuning the ability to accomplish single tasks entirely without error.
  • Ability to prioritize – When faced with multiple tasks on the To Do List, we need to find logical reasons to place one higher on the list than the others.
  • Deal with distraction – Even the least challenging task can become daunting if there is a constant barrage of conflicting information crowding out the critical considerations.
  • Time management – Budgeting scarce resources for completion of a task includes, but is not limited to, the time necessary for successful completion.

This list is not all-inclusive, but it’s a starting place for job seekers and career changers to focus on attributes that are somewhere in the realm of reality than a nebulous “multitasking” concept. These characteristics can be proved to even the narrow-minded employers who still think that they want to hire for the impossible. Enlightened leadership means recognizing the worth of individuals and the value of their contributions to the overall goals of the organization. Now if we could only arrive at mutually satisfactory goals.

The Burn-out Culture of Too Muchism

“Hardly any human being is capable of pursuing two professions or two arts rightly.” – Plato

 

Plato

Plato’s comments regarding multitasking were probably meant to be instructive to his followers. We can assume that the point of this lesson was to correct what he saw as an error in thinking on their part. We haven’t learned very much in 2,400 years. Modern society has not only ignored this lesson it has generally embraced the concept of multitasking. It is virtually unmeasurable, but companies still demand inclusion of the multitasking dimension in job descriptions and reward employees who appear actually to perform it. Overburdening people with stressful standards helps to create a culture of “Too Muchism.” In an entirely ironic twist, our lawmakers have decided to levy fines for driving while talking on a cell phone. Suddenly it is no longer legally a virtue to multitask. Studies do show that the real distraction is not the act of using a phone, but using a piece of the brain to formulate conversation which removes focus from driving. Our brains just aren’t wired to multitask. Using a legal hands-free cellular device, talking to another passenger or yelling at kids in the back seat can be even more dangerous. Fortunately, back-seat-kids have not been declared illegal just because parental brains are not wired to multitask.

  • Human multitasking at the micro level is a myth. Students who multitask have more academic problems than those who don’t. Assumptions that younger generations of workers can multitask better than older generations may appear to be true. However, it is usually because their brains have been required to accommodate distractions at an earlier age. Even the studies which support this theory conclude that while the mind may become more adept at processing input, it cannot physically multitask and that training the human brain to be more accommodating is not age specific. Some scientists theorize that women are more capable than men at multitasking, but there has been no conclusive evidence published to support this.
  • Considering this concept at a more macro level, humans attempt to give their total allegiance and devotion to multiple worthy targets at the same time. Society places pressure on parents to provide for the care of their children in a reinforcement of an assumed parental stereotype that everyone should instinctively have the same feelings about children. At the same time, employers continue to demand concerted effort on the job mostly without regard for external distractions. Compassionate humans in the workplace will often understand personal situations and make accommodation for the sake of balance, but institutionally there is another unmeasurable dimension called loyalty which is encouraged and rewarded while the balancing is not. The result is that a great deal of energy is expended chasing the elusive concept of work-life balance.

One step in the right direction is when companies create a climate of awareness of this concept through training and policy setting. Job seekers research prospective employers to uncover how their lifestyle will match with the corporate culture. Boiling this work-life balance concept down to its essential elements again puts it in the hands, or brains, of humans who are not very good at figuring it out. It turns out that the key is a mutual understanding of the values of all of the human brains involved. Employees need to realize that the company is not there solely for their benefit, that work-life balance is not profitable and that their conscious efforts to make the company succeed will benefit them in the long run. On the other hand, employers need to realize that performance suffers when people are not able to cope, that responsibility for the tools of productivity is in the hands of management and that a lack of concern for employees adversely impacts the bottom line.

The conclusion must be that the search for work-life balance begins with each person, but it is up to their managers to guard against Too Muchism. A study from SHRM a few years ago showed that checking work email 24/7 Is the new normal. It is questionable just how much of this is required and how much is obsessive behavior on the part of trapped individuals in this syndrome. How many humans in management are requiring significant presentations, audits or project delivery immediately after a holiday weekend? How many human-brained employees will voluntarily go to the beach with a laptop or cell phone to check email or keep up on calls while on vacation? Why look outside of ourselves for balance when we are not even trying to find it? Balance begins with taking care of our bodies, our minds and the spiritual things which matter to us. Nobody can control that but the one we see in the mirror.

 

 

Personal Branding May Not Be What You Think It Is

People are making a career out of that personal branding bandwagon that may have seen better days. There are multiple examples of selling the idea and products associated with personal branding. We have massaged and smithed this buzzword of years ago when somebody first put those words together until we now have a confusing array of ideas about its definition. We will probably debate the myths and mysteries that surround this topic until people get tired of it, or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. The question is not whether or not it exists, but what do we expect it to do for us.

Your “person” has a brand whether you want it or not. In high school, we judged people by their reputation, and we never grew out of that mindset. Rumors circulating about “that girl” or “that guy” could build them up in the eyes of popularity-seeking classmates or tear them down with harsh judgemental morality. Almost every day we see articles in all forms of media about someone who is judged to be guilty of some offense without considering any of the facts. If the social media rumor mill gets wind of some real or imagined atrocity, people will be shunned, boycotted, and fired from their jobs without a second thought. Most of those commenting or expanding this web of information are parroting information they have heard from someone else, maybe reliable, maybe not, and not from first-hand knowledge. We make these judgments without looking at both sides of the case to support preconceived notions. Political expediency is a bitch!

A negative personal brand can hurt us more than a positive one can help us. The truth is that unconsciously sending out messages based on emotion rather than logic can cause irreparable damage to our image. A favorable brand image will never get us that dream job, but a negative brand can get us barred from consideration. There are proponents of branding as the primary means of making an entry into the job market, but it won’t offset a lack of necessary qualifications. It also falls short of explaining what happens after getting that job and failing because the person they hired is not what they thought they were getting. Daily personal branding on the job is like continually seeking that next level promotion, a better seat at the table, or collaboration with coworkers. In higher mathematics, we would define a person’s brand as not a constant value but more like a variable in your life’s equation.

It is true that what others say about us is crucial. It is also important to realize that your mother’s bumper sticker or your grandfather’s personalized t-shirt is not a valuable reference for a professional setting. It is nice to have the confidence that someone gives us their unconditional support, but most references that count are conditional. There is a reason that employers sometimes ask for personal recommendations for a job application. It is not possible to evaluate someone’s ultimate potential through a simple conversation or an interview situation. The same logic applies daily when our work will be judged as much by what other professionals say about us when we aren’t there as by our actual job performance. Anyone touched by our actions on or off the job can add wanted or unwanted pieces to the puzzle of our brand.

Every individual is in charge of the way others see them. Believing in some priceless value of our brand is probably not as important as understanding that it exists and each person alone is the one that ultimately makes it happen. Yes, others with an agenda can attack with malicious intent, but it will be more challenging to succeed in the long run with that tactic if our actions don’t match the accusations. Vigilance in maintaining that image shouldn’t be an overbearing task as long as we are aware that our efforts do have consequences, both positive and negative. Living by that creed will help us to say “I’m sorry” honestly when we are wrong and “thank you” sincerely when we receive help from someone. The bottom line is merely the interpersonal relationships in our lives and how we manage them.

Technology and the social media frenzy that has grown with it give us a consistent methodology for screwing things up instantly. It is easier than ever to make unerasable mistakes, and there is no eraser powerful enough to do a rapid repair. That “Enter” key on your keyboard can be your worst enemy.